Discrimination is an important issue in the workplace not only for employees but for managers as well. There are many forms of discrimination. Sex, age, disability, religion, race are only some forms of discrimination that many people face in their workplace. There is direct discrimination and indirect discrimination (Kirton and Greene, 2005). Direct discrimination, the most insulting form of discrimination, is where a person from one group is treated less favorably than people not in that group (Kirton and Greene, 2005 p. 155). Indirect discrimination occurs when an apparently neutral specification, criteria or practice has a disproportionately disadvantageous effect upon a particular group (European Commission and Kirton and Greene, 2005 p. 156). Such incidents negatively affect employees and the organization as a whole. This essay will focus on one form of discrimination, age discrimination, and its effects on the workplace.
Age discrimination, or as defined by Butler (1969) "Ageism", is described to be the fourth main form of discrimination (Kirton and Greene, 2005 p.32). It is "the process of systematic stereotyping and discrimination against people because of their age" (Snape and Redman, 2003 p.79) and has become a restricting factor not only for decisions on recruitment and selection but also for decisions on training and promoting (Snape and Redman, 2003).
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A reason for the existence of age discrimination might be the perception that older workers are not as healthy as young workers, are difficult to change and adopt and have low trainability (Chiu et al., 2001). Many people now describe as "old people" people that are over 50, and even sometimes over 40, fact that acts as barrier to people of that age group in relation to their work career, like for example when they seek for a job (Kirton, Greene, 2005, p. 32) or a promotion. Snape and Redman (2003) found that age discrimination may affect negatively employee's attitudes and hence the performance of the organization. Any notion of discrimination in an organization can influence in a negative way employee's satisfaction and commitment to the organization. It can also raise work tension and form a feeling of uncertainty. As researches proved, old workers can face discrimination on promoting or training opportunities (Palmore, 1990); fact that can reduce employee's wish to work harder, since they might feel that their extra effort won't be rewarded because of their age. Moreover employers very often do not send old workers for training because from a business perspective it is more profitable to train a young worker that will work in the company for many more years rather than an old employee that might retire after some years. As Hutchens (1988) said "young workers have one unambiguous advantage over old workers: They have more years to devote to a job. As a result they can reap greater gains from training than old workers." Employers take their recruitment, training and promotion decisions by looking forward in things like trainability and potential length of service, factors that do not favor old workers.
Age discrimination is a restraining factor for people in a high age group that are unemployed and seeking for a job. Taylor and Walker (1994) proved that some employees do not want to recruit people over the age of 50 because they are considered to be too old for that work and might be proved costly to the company. In 1996 a survey found that 80 per cent of people over 50 years old, believed that the reason they didn't get the job they applied for, was because of their age (Kirton, Greene, 2005, p. 33). However McKay, 1998 argues that its easier for older people to get a job than it is to younger people but the problem is that is very difficult to find a new job in case where they need to search for one (Kirton, Greene, 2005, p. 33). Older job applicants have fewer opportunities for job interviews and usually face longer periods of unemployment (Snape and Redman, 2003, p. 79). A research conducted by the Center for Retirement research at Boston College, found that only old people in managerial positions are likely to recruit older workers. In the same study forty percent of the interviewees admitted that they prefer hiring someone young instead of an old worker, even though the second one might be more suitable for the job, because they claimed that older workers are more expensive that younger workers and therefore it's not a "smart" decision to hire someone who is old (Munnell, Sass, Soto, 2006). In the case study the fact that one of the managers say that at weekends the in-store staff are 14-15 years old proves lack of age diversity and reason could be the above findings, since it might be more costly to hire some older who would claim higher payment.
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It is likely that age discrimination can be worst in cases where the employee or candidate is a "victim" of more than one forms of discrimination. For example when women are discriminated and treated unfairly about their gender, age discrimination is just another form of discrimination that it's easy to follow in cases where the woman is over forty. The same case appears with people of different race and/or colour. A labour research (1998) revealed what is called 'double discrimination' or 'double bias' which concern workers over the age of forty. They are not only being discriminated for their colour but also for their age. (FIND REF)
Ageism is also a restricting factor in jobs that are considered mainly as female jobs. In those jobs usually looks are of high importance, such as airline attendant, TV newscaster, secretary, receptionist, etc. Age discrimination affects women in a higher degree than men. Physical attractiveness is very often followed by age discrimination for women (Granleese & Sayer, 2006). A big number of employers prefer young and attractive employees, like for example in secretary position. This arise what Granleese and Sayer (2006, p.502) called "triple jeopardy" where three forms of discrimination appears, looks discrimination, lookism, sex discrimination and age discrimination. Lookism is a form of discrimination on the grounds of appearance (Warhurst, et al., 2009). Warhurst, et al. (2009) support the view that employees who are perceived to be good looking have better pay and job prospects. In their research they mentioned that 23 percent of employees were asked to provide a photograph with their application for the job, proof that looks sometimes does matter.
Age discrimination can have a much wider impact on the society and to the county's economy. In many countries, people over 50 make up a very big percentage (22%) of the overall population of the county's working population (Kirton and Greene, 2005 p. 32). Therefore they are very important to the county's economy. In 2007 there were estimated about 11 million people between 50 and 64 years old, about 18 percent of the whole UK population (Dini, E. 2009). In 2001 discrimination against people over 50 was estimated to cost the economy 16 billion pounds a year (BBC, 2001) evidence of the importance of workers over 50 to the economy. Even though these figures are old it is logical to assume that figures like these might be relevant in today's economy and as Dini's (2009) research supports, by 2032 people aged 50 to 64 will represent a percentage of 17% of the UK's population.
Why avoiding discrimination is important in the workplace.
By managing discrimination and by providing equal opportunities at work, businesses can gain increased financial and social benefits. Firstly by managing discrimination organizations can avoid negative effects that discrimination can have on employees. People who feel that are being discriminated and because of that discrimination they might lose training opportunities, pay rise and promotions; they will naturally feel less loyal to the company, undervalued and under-rewarded in terms of pay and status (Snape and Redman, 2003). Moreover it can result to damage staff's morale and increase absenteeism. Level of work tension can rise and job performance might decline. Gutek et al. (1996) on a study referring on sex discrimination, suggest that people in their organization who feel that people of their sex group are treated differently and feel disadvantaged, may emotionally or physically withdraw from the organization (Snape and Redman, 2003 p.80). We can assume that the same results can be for other forms of discrimination as well like age discrimination.
However, discrimination can influence individuals after leaving a job. People who feel that they have been victims of discrimination in the past, might feel that they have fewer opportunities finding new place of work, because they are scared that they will be discriminated once again. This can be linked with the previous paragraph since this felling is common, very often employees stay "trapped" in an organization because of their fear and potential cost of leaving and searching for another job (Snape and Redman, 2003)
By minimizing discrimination in the workplace, companies are adjusting and follow the legal frameworks on the area of discrimination and equal opportunities. By following the legal frameworks, organizations can benefit from avoiding penalties and prosecutions for discrimination that can be proved extremely costly. In addition, bad publicity and loss of reputation can lead to loss of customers and can have fatal effects on a company in the long run. Also when an organization is discriminating, the attractiveness to potential employees can be affected.
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Diversity management and Equal opportunities:
It is argued that by managing diversity at the workplace, an organization can maintain a positive environment between employees. It creates a feeling that their similarities and differences are recognized and respected. Diversity management can be described "a process intended to create and maintain a positive work environment where the similarities and differences of individuals are valued, so that all can reach their potential and maximize their contributions to an organization's strategic goals and objectives" (Office of diversity and inclusion, 2009). But is Diversity management different that equal opportunities or is it just a posher name? Since the early 1980's equal opportunities have been established in the UK and diversity management managed to go one step forward from there. Its primary concern is the work environment and the organizational culture (Kandola and Fullerton, 1998 p. 8). Equal opportunities reflects a moral concern for social justice, which recognizes and involves implementing measures to eliminate social group based discrimination and disadvantage (REPHRASE) (Kirton and Greene, 2005, p.2-3). EO aims to create a workplace environment where each individual's characteristics (race, sex, age, ethnicity etc) have no importance in determining the treatment they receive and where individuals should be rewarded, appointed or dismissed only in terms of job-related criteria (Liff, 1997). However, a number of criticisms exist regarding equal opportunities with some of them viewing it as a negative approach on the grounds of, one can assume that being different equals disadvantage (Kirton and Greene, 2005, p.3). For example someone may argue that an employer who is looking to hire someone between the ages of 25-30 is discriminating and seeing people under or over that age less capable or suitable for the job.
Does equality means treating, or not treating everyone with the same way? Some argue that equality exists when everyone is treated with the same way. However others disagree with that. Spencer (2005) said that equality means that people are treated appropriately in relation to their abilities and circumstances (Spencer, L., 2005, p.54). Another definition of equality is "making sure people are treated fairly and given fair chances. Equality is not about treating everyone in the same way, but it recognizes that their needs are met in different ways." (southessexhomes.co.uk). This means being able to give people the same opportunities without being prejudiced on whether they are men or women, old or young, black or white, slim or fat, or any other natural characteristics, but individuals should be appointed, promoted, fired etc only for job-related criteria (Liff, 1997). Moreover equality must also be followed between people of the same group of gender, age and social background regardless of appearance or personal believes.
There are different approaches on equality. There is the Liberal approach, and the Radical approach. Jewson and Mason (1986) were the first who separate equal opportunities into liberal and radical and pointed out the differences of the two theories.
The liberal approach derives from liberal democracy and from the classic political liberalism (Kirton, Greene, 2005). It aims to remove all unfair distortions to the operation of the labour market by applying fair procedures in every aspect of work and employment (Jewson and Mason, 1986). The liberal approach supports that equal opportunities exist when all individuals can freely and equally compete for social rewards regardless of social category, for example gender, age group, ethnicity etc (Kirton, Greene, 2005, p. 115). Equal opportunities policy in the liberal approach is about coming up with fair procedures and making sure that they are followed. The job selection process in liberal approach focus only on candidate's characteristics that are relevant to the performance of job they are applying (Kirton & Greene, 2005). In the case study it is mentioned that the managers are following policies on managing diversity on issues like recruitment and selection, supporting the liberal approach and by this way creating a more fair notion about the procedures they follow and that each employee's differences are recognized and viewed as positives instead of negatives.
The radical approach focus not on individuals but on groups because it believes that discrimination is identified at the group level. The objective of this approach is to achieve fair procedures and fair distribution of rewards and any absence of fair distribution is evidence of unfair discrimination (Kirton & Greene, 2005).
On the other hand, diversity management is more than just trying to offer equal opportunities and dealing with discrimination issues. It encourages organizations to recognize differences between individuals (Liff, 1997) and try to promote a positive environment and ensure that people maximize their potential and their contribution to the organization (Kandola and Fullerton, 1998 p.9). Many researchers support that discrimination can be reduced by managing diversity and that the organization can have significant benefits. Kandola and Fullerton (1998) compared the organization with a mosaic, the different people in the organization are the many different pieces of the mosaic and diversity management is the process that puts the pieces together in order to create a pattern. They also argue that by diversity management, a more inviting workplace will be offered. People will not feel that they will be discriminated but in contrary they will be accepted regardless of their differences and social group.
There are many supporters of the view that organizations can benefit in a number of ways by managing diversity. They can benefit from having a different group mixture by offering a more pleasant work environment for people of different groups, minimize any notion of discrimination and disadvantage. In addition, they can use all the positive dimensions of group-based difference such as increase creativity and enhance employee's effectiveness. This idea arises from the "Business Case" theory of managing diversity which came out during the late 80s and 90s (Kirton and Greene, 2005). Due to the increase of multinational competition, organizations had to find ways to enhance competitive edge. One idea was that by achieving workforce diversity, companies would get competitive advantage by being able to attract a more diverse clientele and therefore contribute to the organization's success (Kirton and Greene, 2005 p.202). This is also the case in the case study where the management of the business outlines in the employment manual that a diverse workforce will reflect the diversity of the customers and therefore increase the attractiveness of the company to customers. Diversity can minimize recruitment problems associated with demographic change by recognizing and valuing the importance of diversity in the workforce. (REPHRASE) Moreover organizations can benefit from the mixture of skills and experiences possessed by diversity groups in order to improve performance. For example, organizations can benefit from a good age mix by listening to young people's fresh ideas and combine them with older people's experience. Also organizations that operate globally can benefit from recruit diverse workforce. Another assumption is that by having a diverse workforce more business opportunities arise, the company is more attractable to different groups of customers because they offer a more diverse environment where customers can feel represented and there is increased creativity and the organization can more easily enter into new markets and attract new customers. However as we can see from the case, not all managers agree that by having a diverse workforce, better results can be achieved. Some people argue that it's better to have people that come from the same group because bonding is easier and it's more likely to think alike and tasks can be achieved faster. Also it is possible that different points of view could lead to arguments and conflicts, negatively affect the work environment. Of course one can argue that on the other hand if a group of people thinks alike, creativity can be reduced.
As mentioned above the business case is focusing on the business benefits that an organization can have by managing diversity. Because of this, organizations do not always have to promote diversity in cases where the company will not benefit from it. For example, employing older workers, as mentioned above, might not be beneficial to the company.(kola nap o gia age discr?) Of course organization has to comply with relevant legislations, but doesn't have to worry if a group of employees is under-represented (Kirton and Greene, 2005).
However there is also a different view of managing diversity called "the social justice case". This view is focused on the employee rather than on the business and it's believed that any inequalities in relation with work and employment are unjust and unfair and employers have a social duty to come up with policies to address discrimination and disadvantage (Kirton and Greene, 2005)
In conclusion, from the case we can see that some people perceive diversity management differently than others. As a result might consider equal and fair something that someone else might disagree. An example could be the case where one of the managers stated that in the store everyone is treated the same. This is against diversity management's believes because individuals differences are ignored and managers are trying to manage everyone as equal. Many organizations see diversity management as an opportunity to improve and develop organisational quality and performance. Some agree that by valuating their employees in this way, they will respond positively, with loyalty, commitment and enthusiasm. More research is needed in order to analyse diversity management approach to discrimination and on how employers view DM policies in practice. In conclusion managing diversity is very similar with Equal opportunities policies in relation to fairness. Both are trying to provide fair opportunities to people but with different approaches. Diversity management supports the fact that individuals are different and those differences are important assets to the individuals and to the organizations. Discrimination can be reduced by diversity management only if employers recognize the above statement and put it in practice.
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